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Will drug trial help in the fight against mesothelioma?

For years, researchers have known of the link between asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma — a deadly form of cancer that affects the membrane protecting the body’s major internal organs. In fact, virtually every new case mesothelioma can be tied to asbestos exposure in one way or another.

Sadly, though, while the link between asbestos and mesothelioma is well known, scientists and medical professionals have yet to develop an effective, long-term treatment for this deadly condition. However, researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK are hoping a new drug trial may help to change that.

This new trial, which will involve more than 300 patients, will test whether the drug nivolumab can be used to target mesothelioma. While nivolumab is already being used to effectively treat advanced kidney cancer and advanced melanoma, researcher are hoping to discover it if can also be used to kill mesothelioma cancer cells.

Specifically, this drug works by blocking a protein known as PD-1 on the surface of certain T-cells, which are immune cells that help destroy other infected cells in the body. Once the protein is blocked, it is hoped that the T-cells will activate and subsequently find and kill mesothelioma cancer cells.

In a University of Southampton press release, Professor Gareth Griffiths, the co-Chief Investigator from the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said, “Boosting the immune system by releasing killer T-cells that have previously been blocked could offer us a new way to treat more patients with this devastating disease.”

While it is still too early to know whether this drug will prove effective in the fight against mesothelioma, preliminary studies have shown significant promise.

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